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p243 Caryatides

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p243 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.


[image ALT: An engraving of a pillar in the shape of a woman wearing long flowing robes and holding a basket on her head. It is an illustration of the Graeco-Roman architectural element known as a caryatid.]
CARYATIS (καρυᾶτις) pl. CARYATIDES. From the notes and testimonies of ancient authors, we may gather the following account:— That Caryae was a city in Arcadia, near the Laconian border; that its inhabitants joined the Persians after the battle of Thermopylae (Herod. VIII.26; Vitruv. I.1 § 5) that on the defeat of the Persians the allied Greeks destroyed the town, slew the men, and led the women into captivity; and that, as male figures representing Persians were afterwards employed with an historical reference instead of columns in architecture [Atlantes; Persae], so Praxiteles and other Athenian artists employed female figures for the same purpose, intending them to express the garb, and to commemorate the disgrace of the Caryatides, or women of Caryae (Vitruv, l.c.; Plin. H. N. XXXVI.45 and 11). Figures of Caryatides are exceedingly common in the remains of ancient architecture. The following specimen is taken from Müller's Denkmäler der alten Kunst.

After the subjugation of the Caryatae, their territory became part of Laconia. The fortress (χωρίον, Steph. Byz.) had been consecrated to Artemis (Diana Caryatis, Serv. in Virg. Ecl. VIII.30), whose image was in the open air, and at whose annual festival (Καρυᾶτις ἐορτή, Hesych.) the Laconian virgins continued, as before, to perform a dance of a peculiar kind, the execution of which was called καρυατίζειν (Paus. III.10 § 8; IV.16 § 5; Lucian, De Salt.).


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Page updated: 3 Sep 06